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Thomas Jefferson and Europe


Thoughts on ballistic missile defense and NATO
John Wheeler Scientist
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My colleague Edward Teller has been vilified by many colleagues because he supported the idea of ballistic missile defence, otherwise jokingly, disparagingly referred to as 'Star Wars'. I don't see any possibility of proper defense without ballistic missile defense. I think of this every afternoon about four o'clock, at my place in Maine, these big' four-engined' planes fly out from the naval air station at Brunswick, fly out over the ocean. I know that the mission of such planes in the past was to pick up signals from devices planted in the ocean, aiming to detect foreign nuclear submarines. And I know too that a submarine has only to surface and ten minutes firing time, flight time, from the missile submarine to the major city on shore. The idea of ballistic missile defense as a single idea is a crazy idea. There are at least seventeen different kinds of threat, each of which demands its own kind of answer. But if that demands vigilance on the part of this country, it also demands vigilance on the part of NATO. I have always found it especially interesting to have been present at the third conference of NATO Parliamentarians in Paris, at which we answered the Russian Sputnik surprise by coming up with plans for scientific collaboration between the NATO nations.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008